Saturday, May 2, 2009

Neon Brown Presents: "Woodland Acoustic Orchestra" (April '09)!

Set 1 58 megs
Set 2 25 megs

Here's another full evening with the ever-mutating Woodland Acoustic Orchestra. This month's lineup consisted of Noah Adler (Mandolin), Dennis Jolin (Percussion), Aaron Stepp (6-string Bass), and Me Woods (Acoustic Guitar and Voice).  After the minor sound-reinforcement debacle of two weeks previous, I brought my own mini-PA to this show, which allowed us to easily plop the speakers down in some much-more-ideal locations. I suspect the sound from most random places in the audience is usually pretty decent even with the built-in PA, but having greater mixing freedom certainly made it much easier for us to hear each other clearly and -- coupled with some much-more-thoughtful mic-positioning -- definitely yielded a better balance on the recording.

Even still, things took a while to get rolling. Something about the way we started seemed to push us into a corner from which it took a while to figure out how to step away. I'm guessing the general vibe for most of us was something like "man, I feel like I'm already playing too many notes to easily move this somewhere else, but it still feels like we could use some more momentum". To be fair to all of us, the Acoustic Orchestra is a slightly unconventional and ever-shape-shifting beast, and it can often take a while to figure out how to work with (or maybe relax-into) the balance of sonic textures on any given night. Also, we were still a little bit under critical mass for ideal "Acoustic Orchestra" action. Generally it seems that a minimum of 5 players makes it easier for each player to find a nice sparse approach that allows plenty of room for listening, more-effortless mutation, and greater overall momentum...which means signaled-changes can have huge impact without bringing things to a halt.

Nonetheless, for whatever reason (in spite of my many theories, it really *is* a stubbornly mysterious process) things seemed to magically gel about half-way through the first set and -- for me at least -- floated on various incarnations of this inspiration for the remainder of the night. (And really, even the first half of the first set has plenty of interesting ideas.  Just consider jumping ahead a bit if you if you're not enjoying the really *does* get quite good!) As with many of the best Acoustic Orchestra shows, multiple simultaneous interlocking melodies form a rich grooving tapestry full of new sparkling details on each listen.

Lyrics, as usual, were mostly lifted and twisted from the Ballard News Tribune, although the end of the first set features what I thought was a rather entertaining extended piece of blather.  This bit was inspired by the very cool surrealist art that had been hanging at the Chai House since at least the previous Juggler's Challenge show (thanks to Dennis for the photos here!  
...if this art is still there next time, I'll try to remember to write down the artist's name and post any relevant links here).

Okay, that's it for me on this one. As always, if you were there or have been sampling the recordings, feel free to add your own comments/context here in the comments section!


Anonymous said...

Instead of reading stuff from the Washington Post, you should use the Wall Street Journal.

Anonymous said...

i used to read hamlet but noone could ever understand it with all the effects.

F R E E L A B said...

Ah the dilemma: Rich sultry FX that help transliterate the late 1500's for the modern audience, or the opportunity for a crowd to appreciate your fine shakespearian diction!? what to do, what to do...